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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Concrete Blonde

Live in Chicago, May 10th, 2003

Review by Gary Hill

Never having seen Concrete Blonde live, I wasn't sure what to expect really. I had only heard three of their discs, the brilliant Bloodletting, Mexican Moon and Live in Brazil. Each has its own texture, and I thought that probably the show would be much the same as that live set. I was wrong. Typically many bands are better in concert performance than captured on studio albums, but usually the live discs come close. Well, not with Concrete Blonde - recordings just don't do justice to the power of their live show.

It is also noteworthy here to mention that only once before has the power of a singer's voice sent shivers down my spine, but Johnette Napolitano's voice certainly pulled off that task, and what stage presence she has! Half the time her long hair is all over her face - calling to mind a cross between a '60's flower child and some punk rock queen. Then during instrumental segments she is all over the stage, careening round and round like a whirling dervish. It's amazing that she doesn't wind up dizzy and falling over. In an interesting bit of versatility, too, she and guitarist James Mankey actually swap instruments at times.

Eric Meli
Eric Meli
That brings us to the music - the band weave an intricate wall of sound live. It is deceptively complex music with the instruments meshing together to create something akin to a quilted tapestry of tones. It is hard to believe that just three people create that much music. The group was forced to cut the show a bit short due to some disco affair the club had booked immediately afterward, but I sure hope to have the chance to see their full-length operation sometime soon.

Eric Meli
Eric Meli
I must say, though, not all of the show was perfection, but it was one of the better concerts I have seen. There were moments that seemed to drag a little, but those were few and not long-lived. Concrete Blonde performed plenty of killer tracks, too, including their smash "Joey", the anthemic "Days and Days" and the rocking "God Is A Bullet". We also were treated to covers of both the Kinks' and the Stones. That Rolling Stones song ("As Tears Go By") featured a duet with guest Laurie Sargent, lead singer of the opening act Twineman. By the way, that group also put in a great set, and their sound meshed very well with Concrete Blonde's.

Eric Meli
Eric Meli
All in all, this was a great concert experience, despite the shortened set. I fully intend to see this band again.

Eric Meli
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at
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